cisler on 19 Dec 2000 16:44:58 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] WTO protest archive

U. of Washington Professor's Site Recalls 1999 World Trade Organization

Margaret Levi and many of her students and colleagues participated in the
Seattle World Trade Organization protests in late November of 1999. Ms.
Levi, who is a professor of political science at the University of
Washington and the director of the university's Center for Labor Studies,
says the events were far more positive than many people outside of Seattle
believe. "There was a tremendous amount of planning, debate, and various
coalitions going on," she says. "It wasn't a mess."

After conducting informational forums on the protests and their legacy, Ms.
Levi saw a need to document the movement from labor's perspective. Last
spring, she began the W.T.O. History Project,
<>  a collaboration
among the Center for Labor Studies, the university's Center for
Communication and Civic Engagement, and the Manuscripts, Special Collections
and University Archives division of the university libraries.

The protests brought more than 40,000 activists to downtown Seattle. The
city is still assessing its costs -- from lost tourism revenues, damage, and
security expenses -- but they are thought to be in the millions. The history
project focuses on labor's organization before, involvement during, and
impact after the demonstrations.

The project's staff members, who are graduate and undergraduate students,
conduct interviews with activists that are transcribed and posted on the
site. Visitors to the site are invited to submit personal accounts as well.
Links to news articles, photos, and video clips of the protests are also

So far, some 85 interviews have been conducted with representatives of
organizations like Global Trade Watch and the United Steelworkers of
America. To gain a "very pluralistic" historical representation, the project
includes interviews with members of national and international groups, and
it involves a range of activists, including environmentalists and

"Our focus is on the protesters, rather than on the city's response," says
Gillian Murphy, the project's coordinator, who is a second-year graduate
student in sociology at the university. "Someone else will write the other

Ms. Murphy says: "Very rarely are these materials preserved. We're in such a
unique position, being in Seattle at the site of the protests." She adds
that the university's proximity makes it easier to collect fliers, leaflets,
and "ephemera such as turtle suits and picket signs," which will be
displayed online. 

Ms. Levi cites the Seattle general strike of 1919, which caused a city-wide
work stoppage, and the waterfront strike of 1934 as episodes where
"histories are extremely flawed, sources are poor -- all you had were
printed media accounts and occasional firsthand accounts." She says that in
such situations, often "one person becomes emblematic" of the whole event.
The W.T.O. Project wants to avoid a one-sided historical account by
considering a number of voices.

The W.T.O. History Project is a pilot program that will become part of the
University of Washington's Global Citizen Project,
<>  an
interdisciplinary collaboration on research in international trade, the
corporate economy, and democratization. Ms. Levi says the W.T.O. component
will contribute to larger questions, like "What does it mean that nation
states are no longer making crucial decisions or they're being made in some
other country? What happens to democratic accountability?"

Ms. Levi says she hopes the site will become a research portal for scholars
and activists with a fully indexed and searchable multimedia database. In
the future, staff members will develop the project's resources into
undergraduate, secondary, and elementary course modules on the Internet that
will supplement classroom-based learning. 

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